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July is poised to be the hottest month ever recorded, climate scientists say

July is on track to be the hottest month on record, with the mean global temperature projected to be roughly 1.5 C above the pre-industrial level, according to a European analysis released Thursday.

Human-caused emissions 'main driver' of rising temperatures, says EU climate group

A man, to the right, rides his bicycle during a heat wave.

July will be the hottest month ever recorded, surpassing by a "considerable margin" the previous record for the same month set four years ago, according to a new analysis by Germany's Leipzig University.

The analysis released Thursday found that this month had 23 consecutive days of record global temperatures and is on track to be more than 0.2 C warmer than July 2019, the former front-runner in the 174-year observational record.

"It's certain at this point already that we are in absolutely new record territory," said Karsten Haustein, the climate scientist who led the analysis.

The average temperature for July is forecast to about 1.5 C above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) level, before the planet was warmed by burning coal, oil and gas and other human activities.

Normally, the global mean temperature for July is around 16 C, inclusive of the Southern Hemisphere winter. But this July it has surged to near 17 C.

Michael Mann, a climate scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, said it was clear by mid-July that it was going to be a record warm month, and the analysis provided an "indicator of a planet that will continue to warm as long as we burn fossil fuels."

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Climate change experts are warning that extreme weather and climate-related disasters could increase as punishing heat waves continue across much of the northern hemisphere.

Risks will 'continue to amplify'

"We are very much experiencing the reality of decades of predictions from scientists warning that temperatures are rapidly rising due to human-caused climate change," said Zachary Labe, a climate scientist at Princeton University.

"The impacts and consequences are being felt by communities and ecosystems around the world, especially for the most vulnerable. Without a reduction in the emission of greenhouse gasses, the heat and subsequent risks will unfortunately continue to amplify," Labe said.

Haustein said paleoclimate research, using indicators like ice cores and tree rings to reconstruct past climate, shows the Eemian period of 120,000 years ago was likely the last time it has been this warm.

Haustein's analysis is based on preliminary temperature data and weather models, including forecast temperatures through the end of this month, but validated by unaffiliated scientists.

Roofers work in the heat in Phoenix.

The UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Thursday it was "extremely likely" July 2023 would break the record, but would not call it outright, instead waiting until the availability of all finalized data.

"July is almost certainly the hottest month in the instrumental record," said Piers Forster, a climate scientist at Leeds University in Britain. "The result is confirmed by several independent datasets combining measurements in the ocean and over land. It is statistically robust."

These temperatures have been related to heat waves in large parts of North America, Asia and Europe, which along with wildfires in countries including Canada and Greece, have had major impacts on people's health, the environment and economies, the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said in a statement Thursday.

"The era of global warming has ended. The era of global boiling has arrived," United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said after scientists warned of the hottest month on record.

"Climate change is here. It is terrifying. And it is just the beginning," Guterres said.

WATCH | UN chief calls for immediate climate action:

July 2023 poised to be the hottest month ever recorded, climate scientists say

6 hours ago

Duration 2:31

Climate scientists say July is poised to be the hottest month on record 'by a considerable margin.' The United Nations is warning an 'era of global boiling' has now replaced the era of global warming.

Human-caused emissions "are ultimately the main driver of these rising temperatures," said Carlo Buontempo, director of the EU-funded C3S, which supplied the data for the analysis, along with the WMO.

WMO predicts there is 66 per cent chance of temporarily exceeding 1.5 C above the 1850-1900 average for at least one of the next five years.

"This does not mean that we will permanently exceed the 1.5 C level specified in the Paris Agreement, which refers to long-term warming over many years," the C3S and WMO said in a joint statement.

North America, Asia and Europe swelter

Sweltering temperatures have affected considerable swathes of the planet. While nighttime is typically cooler in the desert, Death Valley in California saw the hottest night ever recorded globally this month.

In China, temperatures in the country's northwest Sanbao township soared to a high of 52.2 C last week, breaking the national record.

In Arizona, Phoenix expected to see 28 days in a row of temperatures exceeding 43.3 C on Thursday, shattering the previous record of 18 straight days. Maricopa County, where Phoenix is located, reported recently that there were 18 heat-associated deaths between April 11 and July 15. Another 69 deaths remain under investigation. There were 425 heat-associated deaths in the United States last year.

In Texas, San Antonio saw at least 15 straight days of at least 38 C. At least 13 deaths in Texas have been blamed on the extreme heat, which has blanketed the U.S. Southwest for weeks.

U.S. President Joe Biden met with the mayors of Phoenix and San Antonio virtually on Thursday as he announced a plan to help protect workers and cities from extreme heat. The measures include a new Labour Department "hazard alert" to notify employers and employees about ways to stay protected from excessive heat, which has killed 436 workers since 2011, according to federal statistics.

WATCH | Biden on deadly extreme heat:

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U.S. President Joe Biden says some 600 people die from extreme heat every year, "more than from floods, hurricanes and tornadoes in America combined." He cited the federal data as he announced new steps on Thursday to protect workers, improve weather forecasts and make drinking water more accessible.

More challenges for forecasters

Another measure is a $7-million US investment to improve weather forecasts.

With extreme temperatures, forecasters in Canada are seeing more surprises, like the flooding in Nova Scotia, tornadoes in Alberta, and the worst year on record for forest fires, so more resources would be welcome for science and predicting weather events, Environment Canada climatologist Dave Phillips told CBC News.

Nova Scotia presents one example of the complexities in forecasting. Forest fires scorched the earth before last weekend's deadly flooding, so the rain could not easily seep into the ground and then return to rivers as it normally would — and instead, the ground was "like blackened asphalt," Phillips said.

At the same time, water temperatures in the Scotian Shelf just southwest of Nova Scotia were the "warmest they've ever been … so the storm slowed down, and got more heat and more moisture from the ocean," he said.

WATCH | Canadians face dual challenge with rising temperatures:

Cutting back emissions no longer enough, climatologist says

11 hours ago

Duration 0:57

Canadians face some 'big challenges' when it comes to not only cutting back fossil fuel emissions that are driving rising temperatures but also learning to cope with the conditions we already have, says Dave Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada. His comments come as a new analysis by Germany's Leipzig University shows July is on track to be the hottest month ever recorded.

Hectares scorched

Elsewhere in Canada, the Toronto area will be one of the hot spots over the next two days. Thursday's forecast calls for humidex values in the upper 30s, Environment Canada said. Friday is expected to be the hottest day of the week in the city, with humidex values reaching 40 in many areas.

Meanwhile, Canadian wildfires are burning at an unprecedented pace.

According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, there are 1,072 fires burning across Canada in almost every province and territory, "and that has never happened before to the best of our knowledge," said Catherine Abreu, executive director of the Canadian-based advocacy group Destination Zero.

So far, 12.1 million hectares have burned in 2023. That more than doubles the previous record of hectares burned in forest fires set in 1994 of seven million hectares, Abreu told a media briefing on Wednesday, ahead of the analysis.

A man coping with heat wipes his face with a towel.

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